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Foodshed analysis and its relevance to sustainability

  • Christian J. Peters (a1), Nelson L. Bills (a2), Jennifer L. Wilkins (a3) and Gary W. Fick (a1)

Providing a wholesome and adequate food supply is the most basic tenet of agricultural sustainability. However, sharp increases in global food prices have occurred in the past 2 years, bringing the real price of food to the highest level seen in 30 years (FAO, 2008). This dramatic shift is a fundamental concern. The role of ‘local food’ in contributing to the solution of underlying problems is currently being debated, and the debate raises a critical question: To what degree can society continue to rely on large-scale, long-distance transportation of food? Growing concerns about climate change, the longevity of fossil fuel supplies and attempts to produce energy from agriculture suggest that energy efficiency will be critical to adapting to resource constraints and mitigating climate impacts. Moreover, these problems are urgent because energy prices, biofuel production and weather-related crop failures are partially responsible for the current world food price situation. Tools are needed to determine how the environmental impact and vulnerability of the food system are related to where food is produced in relation to where it is consumed. To this end, analyses of foodsheds, the geographic areas that feed population centers, can provide useful and unique insights.

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